Author interview: Alma Katsu

10 Jan

Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Alma Katsu back to One More Page on the latest stop of her UK blog tour for her new release, The Descent. I first interviewed Alma as a debut author back in 2011 when the first book in The Immortals Trilogy was released so it’s lovely to catch up again at the end of the trilogy. 

The Taker was an American Library Association top debut novel of 2011 and also made my favourite books of the year that year and The Immortal Trilogy is one of my favourite paranormal series of recent years. A former senior intelligence analyst for CIA and the Defense Department, Alma lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband. Welcome Alma!

The Descent, the final part of The Immortal Trilogy has just been published in the UK. Please could you tell us a little about it and how it felt to write the final part of Lanny, Adair and Jonathan’s story?

The Immortal Trilogy starts with Lanore McIlvrae using magic—magic she doesn’t understand—to try to a bind a faithless lover to her, only to find that she’s damned them both to an eternity with a mysterious man with otherworldly powers, and it’s up to her to free them. The struggle between the three characters runs through the first two books. It spans over two centuries, several continents and, in THE DESCENT, takes them to their final battleground: the underworld. Lanore thinks she knows why she must go to the underworld, but finds out that there’s something else she’s meant to deal with and that’s what the book about. Just as in real life, we think we know what we want and what’s best for us, but we can’t trick our subconscious.

When I was writing the book, I didn’t focus on the fact that the series was ending and that I’d never write about Lanny, Jonathan and Adair again. Even after you’ve turned in the manuscript to your editor, it’s not really over: there are rounds of editing and page proofs, so it feels more like you’re going back for visit after visit. I have the feeling that it will hit me a few months after publication, when the excitement has died down, and then I’ll realize how much I miss them. I’ve been working on a new book and I can say that I’ve already missed Lanore’s and Adair’s ready familiarity. I’ve been writing these characters for 13 years. The new characters feel reluctant to open up to me, but it’ll happen in time.

Did your plans for the books change as you wrote the trilogy or did the story work out as you thought it would from the start?

I was lucky: the books were able to stay close to the original plan in all the big ways. I’d hoped to have more of Lanny’s and Adair’s backstory in The Descent, to fill in more of the blanks in their timelines, but the pacing suffered for it. Literally, a few hundred pages ended up on the cutting room floor. If there’s enough interest, maybe they can be put out as short stories down the road.

What was the biggest surprise for you in character development over the course of the trilogy?

What happens to Adair—going from being quite evil (if charismatic) where everyone hates you, all the way to having readers root for you—was a pretty tricky thing to pull off. I wasn’t sure readers would go along with it but so far (knock on wood) from the reviews and feedback I’ve seen, readers are finding his journey to be quite rewarding.

In our first interview in 2011 you said Adair was your favourite character to write; did this change as your wrote the second and third books and if so, who would you now say was your favourite character to write in the series overall?

It’s still Adair! He is going to be a difficult character to top; my future characters have their work cut out for them. While Lanny was a very important character, she was always very human, worried about how she was going to survive this or that scrape, while Adair felt he had absolutely no restrictions. Until he learned that there was something even he couldn’t escape—the power of love. It crept up on him and caught him unawares, and he realized too late that he was a goner.

I think it was especially freeing to write a character that is so different from you. I’m not a man, I’m not like Adair. I can’t make anything possibly simply through the force of my will. Everybody wants to be able to do that, of course and eventually we are forced to accept reality. But Adair never let reality stop him. It was nice to pretend.

How had being a published writer a changed your reading habits?

For the worse, I’m afraid. There just isn’t enough time to read all the books I’d like. Anyone who considers himself or herself a reader probably doesn’t feel there is enough time to read, though, don’t you think? Part of the problem is that I like to listen to audiobooks and they take so much longer than reading it yourself, but it’s such a pleasure. Like being treated to a private performance. The other thing is that I have to read a lot for my day job. It’s hard to be a sharp reader for twelve, fourteen hours a day.

What has been the highlight for you of writing The Immortal Trilogy? 

Honestly, three years since the books debuted and it still hasn’t quite sunk in. I am still somewhat amazed every time I meet someone who has read one of the books. I forget that they’re not just little stories I made up for myself.

So in that respect, it’s been almost all highlights. And I’ve been very, very lucky: the publishers have all been very supportive so I’ve had some amazing experiences such as going to San Diego Comic-Con or going to Italy for a book launch! I’ve met a ton of devoted readers and gotten to talk books with them, which is the most fun thing in the world. I’ve met a lot of writers whom I admire, and been the beneficiary of their generosity. Had the privilege of meet booksellers and librarians, who are like the priests of the written word, pure spiritual enthusiasm.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t gotten everything I’ve wished for: nobody does. But I’ve learned a lot about writing, the business and myself along the way and to me, that’s the most important thing of all.

And finally … what can we expect next from Alma Katsu?

I’m between contracts right now, so the truth of the matter is that readers may never see another novel from me. The business is very tight right now. If I’m lucky enough to write another book worth being published… right now I’m working on a historical novel, no fantasy. It’s set in the Georgian period and is about a pair of highwaymen and a destitute serving girl, trying to make their way under very trying circumstances. I’m up to my eyeballs in research right now. The only part I know anything about is the equine part, so something tells me there are going to be a lot of horsey bits.

Thank you Alma – the new book sounds wonderful and I’m sure I’m just one of a small army of fans who would be very upset if we didn’t see another novel from you! I’ll be eagerly awaiting more news.

The Descent is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Alma and her writing at: http://almakatsu.com/

Read my review of The Taker

Read my review of The Reckoning

Read a guest post by Alma Katsu

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